Anyone who has turned on the TV, glanced at a newspaper or looked at a news site online is well aware of the firestorm of controversy surrounding the current White House administration. PR pros aren’t the news—real or fake—but we are in the news business. What we see emanating from POTUS is poor crisis communications, little or no strategy and, above all, bewilderment. Who can we believe?
With Trump’s swift firing of FBI Director James Comey, and a “he said, he said” dialogue, we know that a showdown, hopefully not Burr-Hamilton style, is looming.
Public relations is all about credibility and reputation. And as a growing number of Republican lawmakers call for Comey to testify on what Trump may or may not have done regarding the Russian investigation, perhaps the truth will come out.
However, it takes a long time for the scales of justice to balance, and during that time, it would make sense to formulate a strategy of communication, intelligence and calm. Both Trump and Comey have a lot at stake.
Basic principles of crisis communication could benefit both men.
Offer a concise statement that is not belligerent or defiant
“We look forward to examining all the evidence.” Or “There is likely a lot of information that has not yet been uncovered.” This shows a willingness to be open but to hold off on condemnation until certainty has been determined.
Don’t defame the media
Shakespeare said it best in Macbeth—“Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.” Virulent protests are often signs of guilt.
Trump and Comey both knew that their jobs were under the microscope when they signed on. This will not be the last time they will be closely scrutinized. Of course, more so for any president, but from J. Edgar Hoover on, director of the FBI has been highly visible and often criticized.
Listen to advisors
While Trump has often shown an unwillingness to be coached, even his critics say he was more presidential during the State of the Union address, so he can be guided. Comey has his own people providing advice. A more objective person—even if he or she has an agenda—can often provide good counsel.
As a nation, we await the ultimate fall out. Those who love the drama look forward to the next juicy bit of political gossip. Those who dislike the controversy realize there’s no escape. For many, it’s simply another day in the “new” U.S. of A.